Marcus Santiago was born and raised in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and was trained in art and illustration at The Kubert School, which specializes in comic books and graphic novels.
For quite a long time, however, Marcus struggled to get a career in art. He did some freelance work here and there, but he usually had full-time office jobs to pay the bills.
"I'm 41, married, no kids, and have lived in New Delhi since I was about 22 or so. It was only last year that I finally got a job in an animation studio writing scripts and drawing storyboards for animation projects," Marcus told Bored Panda. "It was around that time that I started Useless Facts, Badly Drawn."
It's a project through which Marcus shares interesting trivia accompanied by his own illustration. He says it's 100% interesting but 110% useless knowledge you're guaranteed never to use. Unless, of course, you know how to get a seat at Jeopardy!
Marcus has always been fascinated with trivia, even as a kid. The stranger the better. "As an only child, I read a lot of books and magazines growing up, which made me a pretty curious kid," he said. "I ran a blog back in the 'old' days of the Internet that had all sorts of random facts and trivia and links to obscure and interesting stuff that had a small but devoted fan following, but I didn't really bother to get it off the ground." Eventually, Marcus even had to delete the blog since he had also posted a lot of personal stuff and ultimately decided to keep his privacy intact."
When I started working at my current job at an animation studio, my co-workers were amused that I could drop all sorts of interesting and weird facts from memory, just in conversation or to be funny or whatever," he said. "And with webcomics becoming so wildly popular on places like Instagram, I thought about doing a simple one-panel strip with strange but true facts on it. Mainly for drawing practice, so I would be drawing for fun regularly."
Marcus said drawing for a living is fantastic but at the end of the day, he's drawing for other people. "It's important to nourish your creativity with your own regular drawing and sketching, and I was hopelessly lazy with that. So I figured, if I made a strip, it would give me an excuse to do quick drawings regularly, and it wouldn't be as huge a commitment as trying to draw my own graphic novel from scratch (which is where my passion really lies, but it's such a lot of work)."
When he launched Useless Facts, Badly Drawn, his co-workers and friends were wildly supportive, sharing it and encouraging the creator. After a while, Marcus had a eureka moment: he realized that if he wrote out the "useless fact" bit, added a joke at the end, and made the illustration funny or silly, then it really connected with the reader and got a lot more views, likes, and comments. "If you check, you'll see that the first few strips didn't have a joke, just an illustration and the fact. The later strips started incorporating more humor. So I think the humor helped set it apart from any millions of similar other 'did you know' pages on the internet and gave the strip its own sort of flavor."
To Marcus, choosing what fact to feature in the series next is easy. "I've always had a ton of trivia in my head. The basic idea is, if I find it really interesting and fascinating, then others probably would, too."
"I've got a few files filled up with facts that are ready to be turned into strips. My biggest problem isn't coming up with facts, it's making sure they're small enough to fit into an Instagram square format, and also coming up with a joke or snarky comment at the end to make it a little funnier."
There's a lot of misinformation running around in the (online) world today, and Marcus really doesn't want to add to that. He said he always tries to find good, solid sources before turning a fact into a comic strip, and that he'd be embarrassed if it turned out to be inaccurate.
"A good example is my recent strip about George Orwell's 1984, because I read [somewhere] that it was banned in the USSR for being anti-communist, but also banned in the USA for being pro-communist. While the fact is technically correct, it turns out the full story is that it was banned in a few cities and school districts in the USA, it wasn't banned across the country as such. So I feel bad about rushing that research. I maintain that it's still technically true, but it's a reminder that I should be really careful."